Stone has rock-solid first day of SEC tournament

Liam Stone during the SEC Championships men's 1m diving finals at Allan Jones Aquatic Center on Feb. 14, 2017.

Tennessee junior Liam Stone smashed the pool, school and SEC records to win the men’s 1-meter springboard at the first night of SEC Championship finals.

Stone trailed LSU freshman Juan Hernandez until the fourth round of preliminaries Tuesday morning, but ultimately finished first with a score of 420.70 – his best so far of the season.

The back-and-forth battle continued in the finals later in the evening. Stone, who was the last to dive in the finals, trailed Hernandez up until the very end. Hernandez scored 8’s and 8.5’s across the board in his last dive, giving him 467.05 points total.

Stone answered with 9’s and 9.5’s, collecting 86.40 points in round six to total 468.30, breaking the records and beating Hernandez by a point.

The previous SEC record 1-meter record (459.75) was set by former Vol Mauricio Robles last season. The Vols have taken the 1-meter at the SEC Championship meet for the last three years.

Diving coach Dave Parrington was very pleased with the way Stone rose to the occasion and fought until the end.

“It was just a fantastic competition,” Parrington said. “As a coach, those are the moments that we live for … Liam has proved to be a great competitor, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Sophomore Nick Rusek and junior Michael Howell did not qualify for finals, but still scored points for the Vols. Rusek finished 15th with 309.05, while Howell finished 22nd with a score of 270.35, giving Tennessee’s men an additional 13.5 points.

Sophomores Emily Pelletier (313.45) and Rachel Rubadue (301.90) finished 11th and 13th, respectively, in the women’s 3-meter, missing the finals cut. Pelletier crushed her previous personal best in the event, which was 257.33 at the meet against UNC in October.

“As a youngster, (Pelletier) was one of the cream of the crop, so I knew she could compete,” Parrington said. “Today, in my mind, was a big break out for her.”

In swimming, Tennessee’s women’s 200 medley relay team of Kira Toussaint, Colleen Callahan, Madeline Banic and Erika Brown took third in 1:35.45, which is just shy of the previous pool record (1:35.33). Braga Verhage, Peter Stevens, Ryan Coetzee and Kyle DeCoursey finished fourth with a time of 1:24.08 in the men’s 200 medley.

In the women’s 800 freestyle relay, the team of Colleen Callahan, Meghan Small, Erika Brown and Micah Bohon finished sixth, but recorded their fastest time of the season in the event at 7:05.48. The men’s 800 free relay team of Sam McHugh, Joey Reilman, Marc Hinawi and David Herron finished seventh in 6:25.75.

With the first day of competition over with, head coach Matt Kredich was particularly proud of the way the underclassmen handled the competition.

“Erika Brown in her first SEC Championships had an outstanding last leg in the relay,” Kredich said. “The ones that stood out (in the 800 free relay) were Joey Reilman, (who) was fantastic and looks like he’s in a great spot to finish the meet, and Meghan Small put our women in a great position leading off.”

Texas A&M is in first place after day one of the SEC Championship. The Aggies’ men’s team leads with 188 points, while the women’s team leads with 158. Tennessee’s men team is currently in fourth place with 144.5 points. The women’s team is in sixth place with 132.

Preliminaries for the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The women’s 1-meter preliminaries start at 1 p.m. followed by the finals for the 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, women’s 1-meter and the 200 freestyle relay at 6 p.m.

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